SPECTRUM PUBLISHING & PRINT SOLUTIONS Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
A concept coined twenty-five centuries ago by men to categorize, assess, and oppress women.
Virginity testing is a long-standing practice that has been documented in Morocco and at least other 20 countries around the world. Virginity tests have been labelled a violation of human rights against women by the United Nations since 2018. But under the Moroccan Penal Code, Article 488 is a law that does not yet provide effective protection against rape if a woman cannot prove that she was a virgin before the crime occurred.
“Virginity testing” techniques cause physical pain and psychological damage which may lead to sexual health problems later in life, along with depression, anxiety and disorders of self-esteem.
M.A.L.I, an NGO that fights for women rights, decided to help turn the tables - and raise awareness around the health dangers of simply not knowing how to deal or talk about virginity.
Describe the creative idea (40% of vote)
According to the United Nations: comprehensive Sexuality Education enables young people to protect and advocate for their health, well-being and dignity by providing them with a necessary toolkit of knowledge, attitudes and skills. It is a precondition for exercising full autonomy, which requires not only the right to choose about one’s body but also the information to make choices in a meaningful way.
M.A.L.I. wanted to empower women with scientific knowledge, evidence, and concepts, enabling them to take a stand when and where it would matter.
However, the world is still far from reaching even the first milestones when it comes to educating young girls on the subject. Most times, they lack the very basic vocabulary – perhaps the most pervasive type of ignorance. And that’s when it clicked.
Invest in the most fundamental building blocks to empower women: words.
Simply defining them. Just like a dictionary.
Describe the execution (40% of vote)
And what could be the best way to deliver this knowledge? What could have more credibility than social commentary and a bigger audience than a research paper?
Dictionary. A form of reference that has survived the digital age, dictionaries were originally invented to help stabilize the rules governing language. That’s exactly what we wanted when it comes to virginity and the language used around it.
M.A.L.I. published a meticulously well researched dictionary, busting the ignorance bubbles around words associated with virginity.
Simon Winchester described it in his book on the history of the Oxford English Dictionary: The quest to capture “the meaning of everything”, has absorbed generations of lexicographers. The dream of the perfect dictionary goes back to the notion that by classifying language one could – just perhaps – distill the essence of human thought.
List the results (20% of vote)
By redefining what they thought they knew, we made people unlearn and relearn virginity.
Sometimes a tradition can be embedded within a culture so deeply that questioning it has never been considered. However, when we shed light on such topics, raise awareness, and ignite an open conversation, even if it’s an uncomfortable one, we can limit and fight back against harmful practices. This can only start with education on the topic. With a dictionary that turned people into learners.
Words have power. Now they could not only understand words related to virginity in a new context, but they could find evidence and arguments needed for brave conversation to break the culture code.
Free copies were sent out to influencers, journalists and activists. The dictionary is available to women for free. 100,000 copies distributed across 97 countries.